Then came Thursday. All Things Arkansas had a few last-minute customers, and around 5:30, I began hearing sirens. While emergency personnel use Central Avenue almost every day, it was quickly obvious this was different. Siren after siren blared past the store. Fire truck after fire truck, all heading north.
I live north. Perhaps a more reasonable person would have immediately taken an alternative route home. Not me. I called my husband as I was leaving and began chattering that something was going on but that I didn’t know where. Once I passed the Arlington and there was a break in the skyline, I began to see smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. I still had no idea where the fire was, but I knew it was nearby.
As I sat in the traffic, more emergency personnel were trying to make their way to the scene. Downtown Hot Springs has two lanes of traffic each direction, with very little wiggle room (my grandmother won’t drive downtown because of how narrow the roads are), and intermittent medians for street lights and foliage. Because traffic was backed up, the police cars and fire trucks moved directly into ongoing traffic and headed toward the fire. I still did not know what was burning, but the severity was quickly becoming obvious.
A few minutes later I rounded the last corner and there it was. The Majestic. Up in flames. I hung up the phone and snapped a few photos. We were turned around on Whittington.
The shame of Hot Springs had become the flame of Hot Springs. We can allow that flame to burn and destroy, or we can choose to stand together to let it light a flame in each of us as we band together to revitalize Hot Springs.
It appears we want more. Words on Facebook may not mean much, but today’s Downtown Association of Hot Springs monthly meeting had more people in attendance than I’ve ever seen. Interestingly, the Association has already been meeting about a strategic plan, revitalization, and partnerships. The people were in the room today, ready to fan the flames of change.
Join us, won’t you? Be part of the new flame … a flame which will rebuild where needed, a flame which will dream new dreams where needed, a flame that will seek the greater good for our community, a flame that will stir the passions of people throughout this region and world. Let’s do this.